Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VII.: LIFE AT WORCESTER. 1838—40. Æt. 18—20. - An Autobiography, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER VII.: LIFE AT WORCESTER. 1838—40. Æt. 18—20. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 1 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
LIFE AT WORCESTER.
Many of those born within the past generation are unaware of the fact that our great railways began as comparatively small ones, and have grown to their present sizes by successive extensions and still more by successive amalgamations. The railway on to the engineering staff of which I passed towards the end of September, 1838, at that time known as the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway, was one of these relatively small lines, subsequently lost by fusion with a vast system of lines. The Midland Railway, which at first ran only from Rugby to Leicester and thence to Nottingham and Derby, began, in the Forties, to incorporate other lines; first of all the North Midland, then the Birmingham and Derby, and soon afterwards this same Birmingham and Gloucester, which now forms a very small component. During its construction no one connected with it supposed that it would thus lose its individuality.
Our engineering offices were at Worcester, in a house which no longer exists. It was pulled down years ago to make room for a line of railway to Malvern, which crosses Foregate Street over the site it occupied. The second stage of my engineering career, there commenced, brought social surroundings of a previously unknown kind. Unlike the pupils of Mr. Charles Fox, quiet youths, carefully brought up (two of them being sons of dissenting ministers), the junior members of the Birmingham and Gloucester staff belonged largely to the ruling classes, and had corresponding notions and habits. Our chief engineer, Capt. Moorsom, having been a military man, and having as his two resident engineers (for the Birmingham division and the Gloucester division) military men also—Royal Engineers—showed his leanings, or perhaps chiefly his friendships, by gathering together, as sub-engineers and draughtsmen, young fellows whose connexions were in most cases military or naval. There were, however, some of other classes—one the son of a clergyman and himself a Cambridge graduate, Mr. G. D. Bishop, who eventually was for a time the locomotive engineer of the line, and afterwards improver of the disc-engine; another, Mr. C. E. Bernard, brought up as an architect, who eventually settled at Cardiff; a third, Mr. H. Hensman, who, in later years, became engineer to the Bank of England; and others whose subsequent careers I need not specify, or know nothing about.
The superintendence was not rigid, and the making of designs was interspersed, now with stories not of an improving kind, now with glances down on the passers-by, especially the females, and resulting remarks: there being also a continuous accompaniment of whistling and singing, chiefly of sentimental ballads. As may be supposed, the code of morals (using the word in that absurdly restricted sense now commonly given to it) was not very high. It is an unfortunate concomitant of the engineering profession that it habitually carries young men away from those surroundings of family and friends and neighbors which normally serve as curbs, and places them among strangers whose opinions and criticisms exercise over them little or no influence. It is with them as with medical students, who, similarly free from the restraints of home, and not put under such restraints as young men at Oxford and Cambridge are subject to, show the effects in randomness of living—to use the mildest expression.
Not unfrequently the behaviour of our companions was matter of remark between myself and a steady member of the staff, with whom I became intimate; and we used to agree that it was impossible that they should come to any good. We were wrong, however. Sundry of them, whose after-careers I have known, have turned out very respectable men—one especially, who, during many years, has been exemplary in all relations, domestic and social; and who, though in those early days without any thought beyond selfish pleasures, has, during a long mature life, been a man of high aspirations as well as model conduct. Let me add that, strangely enough, this change in him has been the concomitant of a change from the so-called orthodox views in which he was brought up, to the so-called heterodox views which he has held during these forty odd years.
“And who are the two in the brown coats?” This question was put to one of our staff at a Worcester ball, by the daughter of a physician living opposite to our office, who daily saw the goings and comings of those engaged in it, and doubtless made criticisms upon them as they did upon her and her sister.
The question referred to my friend G. B. W. Jackson (already indirectly referred to above) and myself, who both happened to wear frock coats of brown cloth—a colour at that time not uncommonly worn. A question from my father concerning him brought out the following description:—
“Jackson is about 24 years old. He was educated chiefly in Germany and was articled to Mr. Wishaw, civil engineer. He had been some years in business for himself before he came here. He is a Moravian and very steady; not very quick of comprehension. He has great perseverance. He knows no more of classics than I do; is very fond of landscape painting which he has practised a good deal whilst travelling on the Continent; and I should say rather economical. There is a queer jumble of particulars!”
When, in the course of 1839, my father visited me, he formed a very high opinion of him, as witness a passage in a subsequent letter to me:—
“I have thought it not unlikely that your noble-minded friend Jackson may have had something to do with suggesting it [an improvement in my official position]. I believe it to be his principle to do a good turn wherever he can. I hope you will cultivate his friendship. I wish you saw his nature as I do. Accustom yourself to open your heart to him as an elder brother.”
He was the son of Dr. Jackson, at that time foreign secretary to the Bible Society. Of somewhat ungainly build, and with an intellect mechanically receptive but without much thinking power, my friend was extremely conscientious—one whose sense of rectitude was such that he might be trusted without limit to do the right thing. Without limit, did I say? Well, perhaps I should make a qualification, and say that in all simple matters he might be implicitly trusted. For I remember once observing in him how needful an analytical intelligence is in cases where a question of right and wrong is raised out of the daily routine. The moral sentiments, however strong they may be, and however rightly they may guide in the ordinary relations of life, need enlightenment where the problems are complex.
In one respect this companionship was, perhaps, not so desirable. Association with a man whose intellectual powers were above my own would have been more advantageous. The effect of our intercourse was to encourage, rather than to repress, the critical and self-asserting tendency in me, already sufficiently pronounced.
Alien in culture, ideas, sentiments, and aims, from most of the young men with whom this new engagement brought me in contact, they regarded me as an oddity. Constitutionally wanting in reticence, I never concealed my dissent from their opinions and feelings whenever I felt it. This tendency to pass adverse judgment was soon observed and commented upon. “He is a queer fellow; he’s always finding fault with something or other,” was the kind of remark made in my presence. The criticisms I so unwisely made were commonly not without good cause. Most of these junior members of the staff, engaged in making plans under direction, were without engineering faculty, and had no interest in their work beyond that of carrying out orders as best they might. Having but rudimentary knowledge of mathematics and none of mechanics, they were incapable of giving any scientific reasons for what they did; and hence there continually arose occasions for commenting on things that were wrong.
How little the thought of policy deterred me from displaying this constitutional habit, may be judged from two instances which occurred. Happening to glance at some plans which were being finished by one of these companions, I observed a shadow incorrectly projected. My remark upon it was met by the reply that it must be right, since he had been shown how to project the shadow by the resident engineer, Mr. Hughes. Prudence would have dictated silence; but yielding to a dictum, however authoritative, which I believed to be wrong, was not in my nature. To prove that I was right I made a model in cardboard of the structure represented, and, by using an artificial light, proved experimentally that the shadow would take the form I alleged. Of course this conduct, coming to the ears of my superior officer, was not to my advantage. Still more absurd, from a prudential point of view, was another criticism of mine upon a proposed system of laying the rails—five feet bearings between the chairs, with intermediate “saddles,” as they were called, yielding vertical support but no lateral support. Led by experience gained on the London and Birmingham, I perceived that this arrangement, suggested by Mr. Hughes and adopted by Captain Moorsom, would not answer—that the lateral oscillations of the engines would cause bulging in the intervals between the chairs. In due time this prophecy proved to be well founded; but the utterance of it by a young fellow of eighteen implied an offensive disrespect for those above him.
Of course the traits of character thus illustrated, did not conduce to friendship with those around. After a time, however, the unfavourable impressions at first produced wore off. It was discovered that within the prickly husk the kernel was not quite so harsh as was supposed. Eventually amicable relations were established, and our intercourse became harmonious.
As compared with most lives, the lives led by the junior members of the B. and G. staff were not trying or unpleasant. Our office hours were from 9 to 5, with an interval of an hour in the middle of the day; and we had, what was at that time quite an exceptional thing, the Saturday afternoon to ourselves.
This leisure half-day was, when the weather permitted, often utilized for excursions. Sometimes my friend Jackson and I walked out to the line, the nearest point of which, Spetchley, was some four miles from Worcester, to inspect the work going on. During the summer of 1839 we betook ourselves to boating on the Severn; now and then going as far up as a place which was named Holt Fleet. Other members of the staff were occasionally our companions, and, as we were young and in high spirits, these afternoons were especially enjoyable. At other times we took rambles in search of the picturesque; not on Saturdays only, but occasionally on Sundays: one Sunday, I remember, being devoted to an expedition up the valley of the Teme for some nine or ten miles. And once I took a Sunday’s solitary walk over to Malvern, ascending the “Worcestershire Beacon,” kept along the top of the range of hills to the far end, and, descending the “Herefordshire Beacon,” returned to Worcester.
Save these Saturday-afternoon excursions and summer-evening walks into the country with Jackson, not many positive pleasures varied my life during this period; for, not associating with other members of the staff, I did not share those convivialities which they provided for themselves. How my leisure time was passed I do not distinctly remember. My impression is that though I bought Weale’s book on bridges with the intention of mastering its contents, and though I took up other lines of engineering study, yet compartively little serious work was done. Nor did reading of a non-professional kind occupy much space; save, indeed, novel-reading, of which there was a good deal.
Nevertheless it seems from my letters that there were commonly subjects of inquiry before me. Always I was more originative than receptive. Occupation with other people’s thoughts was so much less interesting than occupation with my own. Correspondence shows that this was the case during these times at Worcester as during both earlier and later times. My taste for mathematics, or rather for geometry, is habitually shown: something like half of the space in letters being occupied either with questions propounded or with questions solved. By way of showing the ordinary mental activities during this period I cannot do better than string together a series of extracts. Under date November 10, 1838, after being at Worcester some six or seven weeks, I wrote:—
“You will be glad to hear that I have got into a more regular system of study since I have been in Worcester. I am beginning to feel the good effects of strict discipline, both as regards the capability of continued application and the pleasure which I find in the pursuit. I have had considerable success in the solution of problems, chiefly those contained in the exercises at the end of Chambers’ Euclid. I have made out the first 16 in the first book, all those in the second, and the first 11 of those in the third.”
And there follow some three pages of demonstrations. In a letter of December 2, occurs the passage:—“I thought I would try a question in Mechanics the other day and so set myself the following problem”—one concerning the pressure exercised by the top of a ladder against a wall when a man of a specified weight was standing at a specified point on it.
A letter of December 31 contains “a method of drawing the curve made by unrolling the oblique section of a cylinder,” and also some designs for bridges of simple kinds. On January 19, 1839, some paragraphs were filled in describing a way of projecting shadows with illustrations; and then follows the passage:—
“I have become quite idle and stupid lately. I expect I am beginning to fill out a little and that all the energies are directed to bodily development. I do not recollect that you gave me your opinion whilst I was in Derby upon one of the questions I asked you. To what extent is it expedient to force the mind against the inclination? I should like to hear what my uncle Thomas says upon this head. It seems to me to be rather important to be able to distinguish between idleness and mental debility.”
A very different subject occupies space in a letter of March 10:—
“I have not come to any distinct conclusion why the Earth should fall to the Sun in less than a quarter of a year. The obstacle in the way of calculation is the increase of attraction as well as the accelerated velocity, and how to combine the two ratios is the question. From your manner of putting the case I should be led to suppose that there is some simple and conclusive reason for it. Many of the things which formerly used to appear very simple now appear complicated, on account of the many collateral circumstances which I used to overlook.”
How habitual was this speculative thinking was well shown in the subsequent July. My father then paid me a visit of something like a fortnight, on his way to South Wales, where he was going to spend part of his midsummer vacation. The period was evidently utilized for scientific discussions, as witness this extract from a letter written by him to my mother at the time:—
“I believe I must leave Worcester in my own defence for Herbert provides me with problems of so interesting a kind both to himself and to me that I find it difficult to relax entirely from mental pursuits and allow my mind to run wild.”
Doubtless his presence acted as a stimulus, and there resulted even more speculation than usual.
A paragraph having some significance of another kind was written in August, 1839:—
“You will be glad to hear that I have had an addition of £15 to my salary, making on the whole £135. . . I have been given to understand that Mr. Hughes’ letter of recommendation to the Directors was highly flattering, and he evidently expected that I should have had a greater addition than was granted. However, I am quite satisfied as it is.”
A letter of October 9, 1839, yields a quotable passage:—
“I have just returned from a journey to Stourbridge, near Birmingham, where I have been staying for a few days on Company’s business. I went to see after some points and crossings which you heard me mention as chiefly in my hands, and to give some directions and information concerning them.”
Some sentences worth reproducing bear the date November 18, 1839:—
“I have been occupying my leisure lately in investigating transverse strength in all its forms. Several theories have suggested themselves, but I have not succeeded in coming to any very satisfactory issue.
“I have had some very interesting work lately. The designing is left in a much greater degree to myself than heretofore, and I can generally manage to persuade Mr. Hughes to agree to my plans.”
The mental excursiveness exemplified during previous years is thus variously exemplified afresh.
This mental excursiveness occasionally had useful results. Some of the passages which are quoted below, showing this, are of earlier dates than some of those given above; but they are here separated as being instances in which theory led to practice. Writing on March 10, 1839, I said:—
“You need not be afraid of my studying skew bridges or any other subject merely so as to be able to draw by rule. I never remember, nor even take any interest in, a subject which I do not understand; and when I do study anything it is generally with the intent to understand the principles. All I at present know of skew arches, and the method I have adopted in drawing them, are original. The only thing I remember to have borrowed from Mr. Fox, is his definition of a spiral plane.”
There presently followed a new plan of projecting the spiral courses in bridges of this kind; and this plan I set forth in an article contributed to The Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal for May, 1839. It is reproduced in Appendix A, not because it has any interest for the general reader, but because it was my first published essay, save the two letters before mentioned which were written when a boy of fifteen.
During the latter part of 1839 the preparations of plans for crossings and sidings at various stations was put into my hands. A device for saving trouble was one of the consequences. Curves of very large radius had to be drawn; and, finding a beam-compass of adequate length difficult to manage, I bethought me of an instrumental application of the geometrical truth that angles in the same segment of a circle are equal to one another. An obvious implication is that if an angle be made rigid, and its arms be obliged to move through the two points terminating the segment, the apex of the angle must describe a circle. In pursuance of this idea I had made an instrument hinged like a foot-rule, but capable of having its hinge screwed tight in any position, and carrying a pen or pencil. Two needles thrust into the paper at the desired points, being pressed against by the arms of the instrument, as it was moved from side to side, its pen or pencil described the arc of a circle. When about to publish a description of this appliance, I discovered that it had been already devised, and was known as Nicholson’s Cyclograph.
A letter of March 12, 1840, contains the paragraph:—“I have got an improvement in the apparatus for giving and receiving the mail-bags from railway trains;” and in the next letter are sketches and descriptions. Someone had been sent on to the London and Birmingham Railway to make drawings of an appliance of this kind, which was there in use, designed by Mr. Dockray. Perception of its needless complexity led me to devise a simpler one, of which I had a working model made. It was the same as that which is now everywhere in use. Doubtless it was re-devised by someone else.
With the above extracts may be joined one which shows that the speculative tendency was occasionally qualified by the experimental. It is from a letter dated March 4, 1840:—
“I have been modelling a little in pipe-clay since I came from Derby [where I had been at Christmas]. I have finished one ornament composed of leaves of somewhat after the manner of the decoration in the old Gothic churches, and I have taken a cast in plaster of Paris. Not that it was worthy of such an honour, but merely for the sake of practice. . . . Jackson and I are proceeding vigorously with our chemical experiments. We devote two evenings in the week to manipulations, besides thinking over the phenomena between times. We had three other members when first the idea was started, but they have all dropped off.”
Murray, the lecturer on Chemistry, had recently been at Worcester, and a letter shows that I, and probably also Jackson, had attended one of his lectures. This led to the making of the experiments above named. They were carried on in an attic over the office: subscriptions from some half-dozen having sufficed to purchase apparatus.
My father’s letters written during this period from time to time called my attention to religious questions and appealed to religious feelings—seeking for some response. So far as I can remember they met with none, simply from inability to say anything which would be satisfactory to him, without being insincere.
How had this state of mind, unlike that general throughout our family, arisen? There were, probably, several causes. In childhood the learning of hymns, always, in common with other rote-learning, disagreeable to me, did not tend to beget any sympathy with the ideas they contained; and the domestic religious observances on Sunday evenings, added to those of the day, instead of tending to foster the feeling usually looked for, did the reverse. As already indicated in Part I, my father had, partly no doubt by nature and partly as a result of experience, a repugnance to priestly rule and priestly ceremonies. This repugnance I sympathized with: my nature being, indeed, still more than his perhaps, averse to ecclesiasticism. Most likely the aversion conspired with other causes to alienate me from ordinary forms of religious worship.
Memory does not tell me the extent of my divergence from current beliefs. There had not taken place any pronounced rejection of them, but they were slowly losing their hold. Their hold had, indeed, never been very decided: “the creed of Christendom” being evidently alien to my nature, both emotional and intellectual. To many, and apparently to most, religious worship yields a species of pleasure. To me it never did so; unless, indeed, I count as such the emotion produced by sacred music. A sense of combined grandeur and sweetness excited by an anthem, with organ and cathedral architecture to suggest the idea of power, was then, and always has been, strong in me—as strong, probably, as in most—stronger than in many. But the expressions of adoration of a personal being, the utterance of laudations, and the humble professions of obedience, never found in me any echoes. Hence, when left to myself, as at Worcester and previously in London, I spent my Sundays either in reading or in country walks.
In those days there was not any decided conviction about the propriety or impropriety of this course. Criticism had not yet shown me how astonishing is the supposition that the Cause from which have arisen thirty millions of Suns with their attendant planets, took the form of a man, and made a bargain with Abraham to give him territory in return for allegiance. I had not at that time repudiated the notion of a deity who is pleased with the singing of his praises, and angry with the infinitesimal beings he has made when they fail to tell him perpetually of his greatness. It had not become manifest to me how absolutely and immeasurably unjust it would be that for Adam’s disobedience (which might have caused a harsh man to discharge his servant), all Adam’s guiltless descendants should be damned, with the exception of a relatively few who accepted the “plan of salvation,” which the immense majority never heard of. Nor had I in those days perceived the astounding nature of the creed which offers for profoundest worship, a being who calmly looks on while myriads of his creatures are suffering eternal torments. But, though no definite propositions of this kind had arisen in me, it is probable that the dim consciousness out of which they eventually emerged, produced alienation from the established beliefs and observances.
There was, I believe, a further reason—one more special to myself than are those which usually operate. An anecdote contained in the account of my early life at Hinton, shows how deeply rooted was the consciousness of physical causation. It seems as though I knew by intuition the necessity of equivalence between cause and effect—perceived, without teaching, the impossibility of an effect without a cause appropriate to it, and the certainty that an effect, relevant in kind and in quantity to a cause, must in every case be produced. The acquisition of scientific knowledge, especially physical, had co-operated with the natural tendency thus shown; and had practically excluded the ordinary idea of the supernatural. A breach in the course of causation had come to be, if not an impossible thought, yet a thought never entertained. Necessarily, therefore, the current creed became more and more alien to the set of convictions gradually formed in me, and slowly dropped away unawares. When the change took place it is impossible to say, for it was a change having no marked stages. All which now seems clear is that it had been unobtrusively going on during my stay at Worcester.
Capt. Moorsom was a man of kindly nature, and felt much interest in the welfares of those who were subordinate to him. One of his ways of showing this is implied in the following passage from a letter to my father dated December 2, 1838:—
“I forgot to mention to you in my former letters that we have a club, consisting of all the individuals belonging to the engineering department of the railway. We meet and dine together at Capt. Moorsom’s every two months, and in the evening, subjects connected with the railway and previously fixed upon are discussed, every individual being allowed to make observations. We have a club-uniform which, by the way, I was forced to get rather against my will.”
Very soon I took a share in the proceedings by reading a paper on the setting-out of curves, with designs for an instrument specially adapted for the purpose. Still-extant diagrams show that my method was bad. Instead of being one which continually divided and sub-divided the effects of inexact observations, it was one which continually multiplied such effects. A letter written home on May 26, 1839, says:—
“I am just about to commence a series of experiments upon kyanized timber, to ascertain its strength as compared with that of the wood in its natural state. This was delegated to me at our last meeting at Capt. Moorsom’s.”
Then, à propos of this same matter, there occurs in a letter, dated August, the passage which follows:—
“I made my first attempt at a speech at our last dinner at the Captain’s which occurred a fortnight since. We had arranged that our report upon kyanized timber [Bishopp had been joined with me] should have been postponed till the next meeting, and consequently I went quite unprepared; but finding that it was expected that I should say something I made a few observations and was gradually drawn into the subject and much to my astonishment without feeling any nervousness.”
No results of any moment came out of the inquiry. No appreciable difference was found between the strength of wood which had been subjected to the action of bichloride of mercury and that which had not.
Any one who, on a certain morning towards the close of January, 1840, happened to be on the bridge which spans the Severn at Worcester, would have been much surprised had he looked over the parapet. In mid-stream, just below the centre arch, was a boat containing a man evidently charged to manage it. Attached to one of the thwarts next to the bow, was a rope-ladder. The upper end of this rope-ladder was fastened to the balustrade of the bridge; and, climbing up the ladder, was to be seen a young fellow of something like twenty, who appeared to be in a somewhat precarious position. What the meaning of the proceeding might be, a passing spectator would have been puzzled to say.
The young man, as will probably be inferred, was myself, and that I did not come to grief is astonishing. For, on the one hand, had the ladder been much inclined it would have twisted round and left me hanging to its under side; while, on the other hand, in proportion as its position approached the vertical, the strain exerted upon it by the boat held in a tolerably swift stream, joined with the strain of my weight, seemed very likely to cause breakage. I had, however, taken care to test the ladder well before using it. Its strength proved adequate, and I succeeded in my aim.
But what was I doing in so strange a position? will still be the question. The explanation is contained in the following paragraph written to my father on January 18:—
“You will remember our bridge over the Severn at Worcester. I have to-day been deputed by Capt. Moorsom to take the requisite dimensions for making a drawing of it during the course of the ensuing week. It seems that it is in contemplation by the Trustees to increase the width of the bridge, and I am to assist Capt. Moorsom in making an economical design for so doing.”
Here occurred a temptation to independent thinking, and, as usual, the temptation was not resisted. There was, moreover, the usual lack of reticence—a lack which, had my superior not been very good-tempered, would probably have been injurious to me. For, while making drawings for a widening of the bridge in pursuance of Capt. Moorsom’s plan, I suggested a plan which appeared to me better. He was not at all offended by my audacity; and it was agreed that both plans should be sent in.
And now there came a considerable change in the course of my life; entailing, alike, difference in abode and difference in occupation.
When I joined the staff at Worcester, the post of engineering secretary to Capt. Moorsom was filled by Mr. F. H. P. Wetherall, a son of Capt. (afterwards Admiral) Wetherall. Either because he had no faculty for engineering, or because he did not see how the functions he discharged under Capt. Moorsom conduced to professional advancement, he resigned: sometime in 1839. He was followed by a military man, Capt. Whitty—a gentleman who many years after became one of the Inspectors of Prisons. He, too, presently grew dissatisfied with the prospects afforded by his position. When, early in 1840, he left, one of our staff at Worcester was asked by Capt. Moorsom to undertake secretarial duties, and did so for a time; but, like his predecessors, he either disliked the work or did not see his way to benefit by it. Hence there resulted the following letter:—
Bishopp does not fancy doing Secretary in preference to iron work. I therefore wish to offer the change of post for about a month or six weeks to you, and you will entirely use your own choice as to accepting it or not. If you come here it will be necessary to live at or near Powick, and lodgings are now vacant near this house, and you will have a finger in the pie for all that goes on, although your attention will be mainly directed to correspondence. . . .
“W. S. Moorsom.”
“31st March, 1840.
I did not long hesitate to accept the post under the conditions named. A letter to my father, dated April 4, speaks of that day as the third of my initiation in secretarial work. It goes on to say:—
“Hitherto I have walked over in the morning; dined with the Captain; and returned after the conclusion of my duties.
“I think I shall receive much benefit from the few weeks drudging I am to have. Already I have rubbed off a great deal of my dread of correspondence; and as to my writing I find that instead of as heretofore having to urge my pen along with difficulty it now seems as though it were inclined to run away from me. . . .
“Our chemical experiments (or as Ramkin the office-keeper called them our comical experiments) as you may suppose are knocked on the head by my adjournment to Pike (Ramkin’s edition of Powick). The apparatus, however, are remaining to take the chance of their being resumed.”
As its statements imply, this letter refers to a transitional period of a few days—belonging neither wholly to my life at Worcester nor wholly to my life at Powick. But now all that follows, rightly comes into a new chapter.